The adage that there is nothing new under the sun is especially true today with tea. I mean, it takes a lot to surprise me. I’ve seen everything-but-the-kitchen-sink type teas all over the place for a while now (Teavana for example. Is there actually any tea in there?) There is ant tea too...and I accidentally created a tea that tasted like bugs, but don’t worry, I have no intention of marketing my tea fail. Still, I did a double take when I saw this tea hit the Trader Joe’s shelves a couple of weeks back. I love watermelon. It does go well with mint. Mint goes well with tea. Yet, the idea of all three of them dancing in a cup together seemed like something that could go very well or terribly wrong. After having a discussion with one of the awesome employees at my local TJs (I won’t change my TJs because the people there are particularly awesome) I decided I had to make my own assessment.
The black tea was a medium bodied one to my taste. As is often case in the world of shelf tea the ingredients list didn’t help with any origin or other detailed info. It just included ‘black tea’ in the list <sigh>. I think it would take a more deeply trained palate than mine to identify the black leaf behind everything else going on. Oh yeah, the ingredients also include orange peels, the ever vague ‘natural flavors’ and licorice (?!). So I wouldn’t recommend it hot by itself, but once I added honey the sweetness of the watermelon emerged. It was still a little weird, but interesting and fun to taste. I decided to do the full dressing and add milk. It wasn’t gross as some might guess, it was just... not helpful.
My gut instinct is that this tea was made to be iced, but it was in small single serving bags, not pitcher sized ones and included “hot tea by the cup” and “iced tea by the pitcher” directions. I thought I’d start traditional with a hot steep. Even though I would have taken a bet that it needed sweetener to have the best effect I did try it without to start. It tasted more like sucking on watermelon rind with a splash of mint rather than sweet watermelon.
Next I did an iced tea from a hot steep. Again, plain was not the best but I think plain iced was better than plain hot. This time I added amber sugar and it was quite good this way. The mint added a refreshing coolness that went beyond the ice and the sugar was a better fit to the watermelon sweetness than the honey I used in the hot steep (it was a raw honey with a definitive flavor that kind of competed with the watermelon rather than just enhanced it).
Lastly I did a cold steep for 8 hours. I think this was the best of all methods. Though I have come to love some of the tannin release in a hot black tea with milk (and sometimes sweetener) and prefer it to the milder cold brew, with this tea the milder brew allowed the fruit to shine brightest. I dissolved some amber sugar crystals in a little warm water for a quick and dirty simple syrup-like sweetener and added it to the cold brew. Both my friend and I agreed this was a great addition and made for a unique iced tea. I’d toss in the idea of making a spiked version with vodka perhaps or even using it in a cocktail with other fruit flavors.
If you have a curious palate and these flavors are ones you usually like, give this tea spin. Make it for your next cookout or other summer event. It may inspire some interesting conversation.
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